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Monday, March 22, 2010

This Week's Suspended Animation - Comics Legend Lou Fine

Lou Fine spent less than six years as a professional comics artist, but has had more influence than some who spent a lifetime in the field.

Born in November of 1914, Fine was stricken with Polio as a child, leaving him with a bad leg, and restricting him from physical and athletic games with his peers. As a result, he focused his time and attention on drawing.

While studying engineering at New York’s Cooper Union College, Fine’s mother passed away. It is believed by some that this loss led him to begin studying art, against his father’s wishes. Influenced by such artists as Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker, Heinrich Kley and others, Fine eventually became one of comics’ master draftsmen.

Lou Fine began his professional career drawing for the Eisner & Iger studio in 1938. During his short tour of sequential duty, he also provided work for Fox Feature Syndicate and Quality Comics.

His work contained a beauty and elegance previously unseen in comic books and strips. It could even be said that, at the time, Lou Fine’s work elevated the art form of comics with a characteristic and peculiar refinement. His figures were instilled with unusual grace and style, to the point of nearly appearing part of a grand, pugilistic, ballet.

Lou Fine has, to this day, influenced countless comics artists, including such noted historical figures as Murphy Anderson, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon and one-time boss, Will Eisner. His most visible influence, it may be argued, can be seen in the work of the late, long-time fan-favorite Gil Kane. In this reviewer’s opinion, Kane’s elongated figures, and their distinctive musculature can traced directly to the work of Lou Fine.

Fine is probably most well-known for his work on the characters The Flame, Black Condor, Doll Man and Uncle Sam. Much of his work appears in the likes of Wonderworld Comics, Smash Comics, Crack Comics, Feature Comics, and National Comics. He is also noted for having produced some of the most beautiful covers of the Golden Age, and for ghosting Will Eisner’s strip The Spirit, while Eisner served in the military during World War II.

In 1944, Lou Fine left the world of the comics to work in advertising. Leaving his mark there, as well, he co-created Sam Spade, for Wildroot Cream Oil, The Thropp Family, for Liberty Magazine, and Charlie McCarthy and Mr. Coffee Nerves, for Chase and Sanborn Coffee.

After advertising, he drew the newspaper strips Adam Ames and Peter Scratch, and contributed to the Space Conquerors strip for Boys Life from the late 1960’s until his death in 1971.

The work of Lou Fine is highly recommended, though acquiring the originals will be nigh-impossible for the average collector. Luckily, reprints abound.

Review by Mark Allen